[Based on sights and sounds (and smells) from Delhi 12th to 14th July]
We had another free day while waiting our G-Adventures Essential India tour to begin, so decided to do some Delhi sight seeing. The conditions were more like a wet weekend in Blackpool; the main giveaways being the presence of tuk-tuks and a driving style that requires a strong and true faith.
The Lotus Temple is a remarkable and very beautiful structure, built as center for all religions, under the belief that all religions at heart are aspiring towards truth and love. http://www.bahaihouseofworship.in
The internal space was incredible. There was a calm reverential air, broken only by the cawing of a local pigeon producing spectral echoes as the bird and its sound moved through the complex angles of the building.
We hurried through some further architectural wonders, and found ourselves at the India Gate, which is a memorial to 82,000 soldiers of the undivided British Indian Army who died in the period 1914–21 in the First World War. As it was Sunday (an Indian day off) the area was thronged with Indian tourists, some of whom were just as interested in us as we were in them.
On the way back to the hotel our taxi driver took us past the gargantuan parliament complex and down a street almost deserted, apart from two gangs of Macaque monkeys. We introduced ourselves to the tour group over a meal, Raghu will be our guide for the next two weeks.
The next day began with glorious sunshine and a tour around one of the slum children projects in Delhi. Sabir, an eighteen year old who had been taken in and become part of the project was our guide for the morning. On the way to showing us one of the hostels where the children were housed and educated he took us down a seemingly innocuous alleyway, where ceramic tiles carrying sacred images and symbols from the Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and Jewish religions.
He explained that the tiles were there to maintain the structural integrity of the wall. The alleyway had been used as a urinal to such an extent that the mortar holding it together had begun to weaken, so the owners of the building had put the tiles there to deter people, and with Delhi being so multicultural you need a variety of tiles to cover all bases. This technique is used all over the city.
After meeting the charming and playful kids at the hostel, we said goodbye to Sabir, and went on to see the Jama Masjid Mosque, the Sikh Temple (which feeds 20,000 people each day) and the bustling city streets of this very crowded city.
The impossible is being attempted around each street corner. There are no obvious rules of the road, but the whole thing keeps moving anyway. As we left the next morning, I wondered how a city of 25 to 30 million souls (no-one seems to know the exact number) can function amid so much chaos, but I think it might have something to do with what is holding the wall up in the alleyway.